BRUSSELS: The European Union is considering providing a military training mission to Ukraine amid lingering tensions between Russia and the Soviet ex-republic, officials said Monday.
Acting on a request from Ukraine for help in the “professional military education," the EU has already sent a fact-finding mission to the country last month.
The topic will be discussed during a summit scheduled on Tuesday in Kyiv, the officials said on condition of anonymity in accordance with EU practices.
The results of the mission have yet to be analyzed in order to define how the bloc could help in the best way, and how the support could look like.
One official said the EU's political and security committee, which is responsible for the bloc's common foreign and security policy, will go back to the issue in November.
“What we are looking at this moment is to explore the possibilities to further support more broadly what I would describe as Ukraine resilience, and that obviously includes in the area of professional military education," one official.
This summer, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged closer ties between his country and NATO and the EU. Ukraine is locked in a bitter tug-of-war with Russia, which in 2014 annexed Crimea and has since been backing a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and Kyiv’s efforts to shore up support among Western nations.
The EU has imposed economic sanctions against Russia and targeted several individuals and entities with restrictive measures in response to the annexation of Crimea and what it calls the “deliberate destabilization of Ukraine."
The annexation and Moscow’s backing of rebels in the east of Ukraine, where more than 14,000 have been killed since 2014 in the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces, plunged Russia’s relations with the West to post-Cold War lows.
The tensions rose once again this year after Russia increased troop numbers near its borders with Ukraine, including in Crimea, eliciting international outrage.
At the summit, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are set to reiterate the EU's “unwavering" commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, officials said. Zelenskyy will represent Ukraine during the talks.
They will also discuss disinformation and cybersecurity with their Ukrainian counterparts. Both sides have already started a so-called cyber-dialogue, with the second round of discussions on that topic scheduled next year.
“What we are looking to achieve is to really put in place a mechanism to strengthen and deepen on almost a daily basis the inter-institutional cooperation on cybersecurity," an official said.
Other discussions at the summit will center around the progress made since the two sides signed their landmark Association Agreement in 2014, which stipulated free trade and visa-free travel between the two.
The EU will acknowledge efforts made by Kyiv to keep pushing reforms — including in the rule of law and judiciary, and the creation of effective anti-corruption mechanisms — with the bloc's officials expected to encourage further commitment to ensure the changes become irreversible.
Other topics will also include climate change, aviation, energy, and cooperation in tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.